Increase in Type 2 Diabetes Among UK Under-40s Is ‘alarming’

Diabetes diagnoses among people under the age of 40 in the UK are increasing faster than those in their 40s and older. These shocking statistics expose the impact of soaring obesity levels, experts say.

According to the World Health Organization, the UK ranks among the most unhealthy countries in Europe in terms of overweight and obesity rates among adults. Among countries in Europe with the highest obesity rates, the UK ranks third after Turkey and Malta.

Having type 2 diabetes and being obese have a close association. People who are obese have a seven-fold elevated risk of type 2 diabetes than those who are of a healthy weight, while those who are overweight have a three-fold increased risk.

Diabetes UK reports that type 2 diabetes diagnoses among people under 40 in the UK have shot up by 23% from about 120,000 in 2016-17 to 148,000 in 2020-21. As a result, the number of cases rising among those over 40 has outpaced the number of cases rising among those who are under 40. Over 40’s still make up the vast majority of cases.

Diabetes type 2 was diagnosed in approximately 3 million over-40s in 2016-17. By 2020-21, this number had jumped up to 3.6 million, an increase of 18%

Diabetes type 2 in people under 40 has been quite rare until recently, so many people do not pick up its symptoms, including doctors.

Diabetes type 2 can affect anyone under the age of 40. People of all ages and backgrounds should be given the opportunity to reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes by checking their risk now.

The Diabetes UK website offers a free tool that can be used to check your risk of developing the disease if you are under 40. Alternatively, a Home Diabetes Test can be purchased through Zoom Health. Just follow this link for further information.

The Rise in Type 2 Diabetes in the UK

The rise in type 2 diabetes among young people is concerning for several reasons. Firstly, developing diabetes at a younger age means living with the condition for longer, which can lead to more severe complications if not properly managed. These complications include heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and amputations.

Secondly, type 2 diabetes in young people can be harder to manage due to their busy lifestyles. Maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly and taking medications as prescribed can be challenging when juggling work, family and social commitments. Young people may also feel invincible and underestimate the seriousness of the disease.

Thirdly, type 2 diabetes in youth is worrying from a public health perspective. The condition used to be called “adult onset” diabetes, but now more children and teenagers are being diagnosed. This places strain on the healthcare system and requires investment in education and prevention strategies targeting young people.

There are several factors driving the rise in type 2 diabetes among the under 40s in the UK. The primary cause is increasing obesity, which is linked to unhealthy diets and sedentary lifestyles. The consumption of processed and sugary foods has increased, while activity levels have declined. Stress and poor sleep may also raise diabetes risk in young people.

Genetics and family history play a role as well. Those with a close relative with type 2 diabetes have a greater chance of developing it themselves. Certain ethnic groups are also at higher risk, including people of South Asian, African-Caribbean and Middle Eastern descent.

To reverse the trend, public health initiatives targeting children and young adults are needed. Schools should provide nutrition education and daily physical activity. Communities can offer free or low-cost recreational sports programs. Healthcare providers should check patients’ diabetes risk regularly starting in childhood and do early screening in high-risk groups. Support for healthy living should continue through university and the workplace.

With concerted effort across sectors, the tide of type 2 diabetes among young people in the UK can be stemmed. Though the disease is on the rise, it is largely preventable through lifestyle changes. Investing now in the health of the next generation will pay dividends for decades to come.

Photo by i yunmai on Unsplash

Zoom Health is a leading UK supplier of Home Health Tests and Earplugs

You May Also Like: